By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian warned commercial banks on Wednesday against engaging in further “shadowy transactions” which he believes may have caused last week’s sharp fluctuations of the Armenian dram’s exchange rate.
“We are going to be strict and consistent on this,” Kocharian was quoted by his office as telling the chief executives of Armenia’s two dozen banks. “There are reports that some banks took part in the shadowy transactions carried out by currency exchange offices.”
Kocharian did not name any of those banks. He said only that any bank found to be involved in the practice will face “serious consequences.”
The dram briefly lost 10 percent of its value last Thursday after its more than year-long dramatic appreciation against the U.S. dollar and the European Union euro. It rallied later in the day, stabilizing at about 460 drams per dollar after the Armenian Central Bank announced urgent measures to ensure “the legality of transactions at exchanges bureaus.”
In a brief statement faxed to RFE/RL on Wednesday, the Central Bank claimed that it did not resort to any monetary intervention to shore up the dram. “This fact once again confirms the assertion that what happened in the financial market was artificial,” it said.
The bank and the Armenian government attribute the dram’s strengthening to a drastic increase in multimillion-dollar cash remittances sent home by Armenians working abroad. But their political opponents dismiss this explanation, alleging a high-level conspiracy designed to benefit large-scale importers of key commodities to Armenia.